More students getting free weekend take-home meals - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

More students getting free weekend take-home meals

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- For many children, going home hungry is a reality. Partial relief can be found at school with free and reduced lunches. Some districts bridge the gap even further, offering take home meals. and the need for that is on the rise.

The Dubuque Community School District has a free and reduced lunch program, but what happens on the weekends for children that might not have enough food to eat? That's where the Foodpacks program comes in.

"Wen you have a child who's hungry, they're not going to think clearly, they're going to be thinking about eating they're not going to be focusing on their work at school," Joanne Troy, director of operations for St. Stephen's Food bank, said.

Hunger is a problem many schools notice on Monday morning.

"There were children who didn't have food to eat over the weekends, and they came back to school and were happy to be back at school where they had food to eat from the school lunch program," Troy said.

The weekend bags are funded by the John Deere Foundation and Runde Auto Group. St. Stephen's administers the foodpacks which are shipped in from Tennessee.

With Foodpacks, 360 kids from seven schools in the district get food to take home for the weekend.

"It usually includes a couple of cereals, a box of milk, a couple boxes of juice, and some main meals in the little cans they can prepare themselves it was designed so a five year old child could feed themselves," Troy said.  The Foodpacks are meant to supplement food from home.

This is only the second year of the program being in Dubuque, but there's already planned expansion for next year with John Deere sponsoring an additional 50 students next year.

"We've received a lot of great feedback from the children and from their families and from the schools, so I think it's really been successful, and I suspect that it will grow even more in the next couple of years that are coming up."

School district officials say the Foodpacks program is one of the fastest growing services projects in the nation. In Dubuque, there is a waiting list for kids to get Foodpacks. Once a student is on the Foodpacks list, they will never go off.

Schools that are using the Foodpacks program are the seven elementary schools with the highest percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

According to a School Nutrition Association survey -- more than half of school food service directors say they've seen an increase in requests for free and reduced lunches this year.

Dubuque school officials say numbers have actually maintained pretty steady over the past five years. The district averages 35% of students eligible for free or reduced lunches. The elementary schools with the highest numbers from 2008-09 are Fulton (84%), Audubon (83), Prescott (83), Lincoln (72), and Marshall (59).

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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